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Ditch the Dinner Bell: Messaging Your Kids in the 21st Century

It can be difficult to actually get through to your kids when they have so many distractions surrounding them. How can you possibly compete with so many screens? With the right mindset, understanding, and approaches, though, it is quite possible. Here are a few ways to reach your kids effectively in this modern digital age.

1. Buy Them a Specialized Phone

When considering different methods of keeping in touch, you could always look into getting your child a specialized kids phone. Such phones enable calling and texting but don’t allow access to social media or the wider internet. They’re designed to protect children from harmful content and distractions while emphasizing communication with loved ones. These devices also let you keep tabs on your kids through GPS tracking.

With the capabilities they offer — and don’t offer — kids’ phones become a space defined specifically for the purpose of communication. Because of their focused features, these devices also have the benefit of encouraging kids to direct their attention to the world around them. Being truly present in their surroundings is important to a child’s healthy psychological development.

2. Start a Family Group Chat

If you had to name the gold standard for family communication, it would probably be nightly conversation around the dinner table. But engaging in text communication at times does not have to damage the family dynamic. It can even strengthen it by allowing everyone to check in from wherever they are. And sharing silly memes, jokes, and funny cat videos lets family members enjoy a joint chuckle during the day.

For topics that require the whole family, start a family group chat so everyone can contribute at their convenience. Even if you’re all in the house, such a group chat can relieve the stress of communication for some family members. Neurodivergent or quiet children, for example, may find it easier to express themselves over chat than in a noisy family free-for-all.

3. Set Up a Personalized Text Tone

You can make keeping in touch fun for your children by engaging in some personalization. One way of doing this is by jointly choosing a notification sound/vibration pattern specific to each family member. They’ll know at a buzz whether it’s their older brother texting to arrange a pickup time or you notifying them it’s time for dinner.

Of course, the sound/vibration personalization works in reverse as well. If they text you during the workday, you’ll feel the distinctive vibration and know it’s your child, not a Slack notification. That will be your cue to get in touch as soon as you can. Your prompt attention to their texts will make them more likely to respond in kind when you need them to get in touch with you.

4. Give Them a Smartwatch

Extra Bluetooth accessories like smartwatches can make communication with your kids all the more convenient. Any type of notification will show up on the watch and allow your child to respond without taking out their phone. Not only will they see (and, ideally, respond to) the text quicker, but their focus won’t be drawn away from their activity in progress. They can stay connected to you without getting sucked in by their devices.

Top-of-the-line smartwatches can be quite expensive, but there are more affordable alternatives on the market, even some designed specfically for kids. Whatever kind you get, you’ll appreciate their GPS tracking (more accurate than that of phones because of their attachment to the body).

5. Use a Photo-Messaging App

If you find that your child has a short attention span, try using a self-destructing message platform like Snapchat. The platform is centered around quick, limited picture-based messages that expire after viewing. Options for this capability are also available on Gmail, Instagram, and Whatsapp, to name a few.

Once a message is opened it cannot be opened again; the sender can only see it and compose a quick reply. The time-limited nature of such platforms may be just the thing to get your kids to stop ignoring your texts. If you want a quicker, more candid response to your messages, this may be the way to go about it.

6. Talk to Them

No matter how you message your children, it will have an underwhelming effect without the foundation of open in-person communication. Children need to be taught to communicate in healthy ways, and this responsibility should not be ignored for convenience’s sake. It’s always better to talk to your kid in person if you are in physically close proximity. This is the only way to grow genuine familial bonds with those you love.

It goes without saying how important interaction with their parents is to a child’s psyche as they grow up. Monitor your own device use and make sure you’re paying more attention to your child than to your screens. Whether sitting around the dinner table, doing chores, or driving to school, seize every opportunity to simply talk with your child. Technology insinuates itself more into our lives every day, but that doesn’t mean the old ways are obsolete.

Nobody is born knowing how to do these things perfectly, so don’t feel down on yourself if your parent-child communication feels weak. You have some creative tools to work with and will soon find yourself in a familiar groove. Whether it’s through group texts, Snapchat, or good-old-fashioned chitchat, the communication approach that works for you is within your grasp. Once you figure out your preferred messaging mediums, it will be smooth sailing from there.

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